Monthly Archives: October 2013

Review: Resisting Gossip

“Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Prov. 26:20).
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“Only you can prevent forest fires” (Smokey the Bear).

Resisting Gossip Cover

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With gossip being so prevalent in our culture (Facebook, TV, newspapers, chat forums, etc), it can be hard to resist listening to and sharing stories about other people’s business. But how far does gossip actually go? And what does God say about gossip? Can we follow it? Are we just drowning too deep in the culture of gossip? There are some things that are clearly identified as sinful in the Bible that we conveniently avoid. We don’t consider them as significant as immorality, yet they sins still entangle us and hinder our relationship with God and others.
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In Resisting Gossip author Matthew Mitchell says that he wished to find a one-size-fits-all solution to gossip. But gossip is messier than that. However, God’s wisdom is greater than the challenge. Gossip is a broad, tricky, and a pernicious problem that needs to be dealt with quickly when it crops up. Christian Living books should not provide a single fix-all for every problem. There is no one way to handle gossip. But most importantly in this book Mitchell goes for the heart of the problem. And the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
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The author gives practical, positive, spiritual advice on not only avoiding gossiping, but what to do if you become a victim of gossip. Mitchell carefully defines gossip and it’s many prevalent forms (no one is exempt here, not even you).

The Chocolate Milk

+ The author presents his material in a clear and accessible way. He is honest about his own failures and successes, and humbly opens himself to the reader.. And this vulnerability helps the readers do the same, especially as Matt consistently applies the Gospel to all of us throughout the book.
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+ Mitchell uses Scripture to back up his points and avoids easy/moralistic/legalistic solutions.

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+ He uses a lot of references from Proverbs. It’s one thing to read through Proverbs and read all the verses on gossip. It’s another to see them all throughout this book as the main book to be referenced. Let me tell you, there are verses a’plenty on gossip in Proverbs (which is good, and convicting).
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+ There are 5-6 Discussion questions at the end of each chapter for either group discussion or personal reflection. While I didn’t go through every question and answer them myself, they seem to be good at making you think on how gossip is wrong, what you would do if you were on either side of the equation, how the gospel and the love of Christ are better than gossip, etc. They make you think, and that forces you to think about your actions and their consequences the next time you want to open your mouth and speak.
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+ The book supports not just the negative prohibition of the tongue, but the positive use of it too. It would have been easy to stay just on the negative, but the true solutions are all related to the development of the positive use of the tongue (and the heart). It’s like Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Other leaders (religious or otherwise) in the world have given the same pronouncement in the negative “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others” (Isocrates). Knowing the negative is great, but having to follow the positive takes great effort.
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+ The book is well-organized making it easy to follow along and read. It’s encouraging to know where the book is heading, and to be able to follow along, especially with an important subject like this.

The Spoiled Milk

This book was good for the topic it’s on. Really good. It was revealing, convicting, and all around encouraging to have some wisdom on this topic, to see more of the ins and outs of gossip, and to know what not to do and how to help instead. To speak good of others over bad (even if it’s true!) because you love them (even if you don’t feel like you do). So for this book, there isn’t much wrong to say (except for one thought:
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– Maybe he could have used more real world examples, maybe they were just enough. I thought the amount was good, but more would always be nice too.

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+ Yet, it seemed the examples he did use were relevant. They weren’t thought of just so he could put them in a book, but they really fit the situation.

Recommended?

I don’t consider myself particularly prone to gossip. Well, I didn’t. By biblically widening the definition of gossip Mitchell showed me that I may be more of a gossip than I care to admit. In the “Gallery of Gossips” Mitchell lays out 5 different kinds of gossipers. Those who speak, those who listen, and all from a filthy heart. I could think of people for each type. But after reading I realized that I don’t have to go looking for people to fit those positions. I myself have been those things!
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Using Romans 1:29 (They are gossips) on page 44 hits hard. Why? Because just 11 verses before that Paul tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18), and then gives a description of what those ungodly people are like.
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Gossip has no easy solution. It took the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive it, and it takes continually returning to the death and resurrection of Jesus to overcome it.

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Hopefully this book will change the way you talk to, with, and about people.

Lagniappe

 [A big thanks to CLC Publications for allowing me to review this book [PDF] for free. I was not obligated to give a positive review in return for reviewing my copy.]

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Review: What Is Biblical Theology?

What Is Biblical Theology?
James Hamilton, Jr. does a wonderful job on simplifying the Bible’s grand, overarching story in his new book
What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. I often hear about how the Bible is a continuous story, but I often forget just how much of it really is a unified story. I forget to picture it with story qualities: episodes, themes, conflicts, victories, mystery, symbols, a protagonist, an antagonist, and many other mini-characters in other mini-settings.

What Is Biblical Theology?

Hamilton defines Biblical Theology as the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors.
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What does that mean?
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It is the way in which the authors reflected how they understood earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing in the form of narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses. They do this within the framework of knowledge and truths they live in to describe the way they understand the world and the events that take place in it.

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For example, Moses didn’t write a story about Balaam in Numbers 22-25 because he was desperately searching for a good story to tell. He singled that event out of all the events of the 40 years in the wilderness, carefully arranged it amongst the rest of the narrative, and presented the true story. Doing it this way enabled his audience to clearly see how what Balaam said and did fits into the true story of the world we live in which Moses shows in the Pentateuch.
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Moses didn’t write down facts for the sake of being a historian. He followed and wrote down the themes he saw so that we can see the connections between stories:

  1. Noah survived through the Flood while God’s enemies (rebellious humanity) were destroyed.
  2. Moses and the Israelites made it across the Red Sea while God’s enemies (Pharaoh and the Egyptians) were destroyed.
  3. The faithful remnant made it through the “flood” of the Assyrian and Babylonian armies while God’s enemies (unfaithful Israel) were destroyed.
  4. Jesus was baptized and fully submerged into the Jordan river, and as Christians our old man is put to death in Christ and raised in the likeness of Him, putting off the body of the flesh and putting on the new man [Col. 2:11-12]. Who is God’s enemy that is destroyed? The old man, and sin’s reign over us [Rom. 6:6]. Sin is still here, but it is no longer our master; Jesus is.

Literary Forms

The images in the Bible are meant to give real-world illustrations of abstract concepts. In Psalm 80:8, Asaph helps us to understand Israel’s importance by comparing her to a vine planted by the Lord, recalling Genesis 2:8-9 when God planted the garden of Eden and Isaiah 5:1-7 where God relates Israel to a rotten vineyard. (Or perhaps Isaiah 5 recalls Psalm 80. Who knows?)
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Typology

Hamilton explains the extra step of Typology over Symbolism. Typology doesn’t have to be difficult or weird to understand. It’s just what God typically does (p. 44). We have the initial occurrence of an event (the archetype), then we have the uphill climb (the installations) until the type finds fulfillment in its ultimate expression.
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These themes culminate in Jesus Christ, but some of these themes continue in the church too. The seed of the woman was always antagonized by the seed of the serpent (Gen 4:8; 6:5; 9:22; 21:9; 27;41; 31:24; 34:2; 37:5; 37:18; Ex. 1:15-16), but through the suffering and persecution God would save His people and put down the enemy (Gen. 3:15; Mk. 15:33-41). Through the cross, Christ died for His people in agony, weakness, and humiliation, but rose in great strength according to the power of the glory of God (Rom. 1:4).
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This flows into how we should perceive the church, why the church seems so unimpressive, yet is considered so important in the New Testament. We are the mystery revealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:5). The Bible’s story and symbolism teach the church to understand who we are, what we face, and how we should live as we wait for the coming of our King and Lord.

The Chocolate Milk

Most of what I’ve said previous to this section could also be included in this section, but I thought I would put in a few specific points here.
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This book clears up a number of the issues people have with biblical prophecy. How can Jesus say in John 13:18 that the one who eats His food will turn against Him according to the Scriptures (in Ps 41:9)? When you read Ps 41:9 it just says that the one who shared the author’s food, who he trusted completely, has turned against him (my paraphrase).
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Why was this scripture prophetic?
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There’s a recurring theme through the Bible to have your closest ally turn against you (Noah with Ham, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Moses and Aaron, David and Saul, Jesus and Judas). Jesus is just fulfilling one of the messages of the grand story: someone very close to you is going to turn against you.
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His chapter on Typology was great. His definition of it was super-easy to understand. Typology is what God typically does. As you can tell from the section above, I don’t have much more to say about it here: I did appreciate it. I remember hearing about typology in high school and thinking it was a neat idea. As I got older I wondered what the base of it was. How can you tell what the typology is? Are we just making it up as we go or is there a clearer road to understanding the process? This section lays it out in layman’s terms, which is just what I need.
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The application of Chapter 13 “The Church’s Plot Tension and It’s Resolution” was highly favored. Why does the Church suffer? Because Christ suffered. He was hated for who He was, and we will be hated for the One we know and are united with. Satan is pursuing the same strategy with the church as He did Jesus. He thought he had the upper hand in the death of Jesus, but God accomplished victory with what looked like defeat. And He will do the same for us (Dan 7:23-27).

The Spoiled Milk

As great as I think this book is, there are some shortcomings in my view.
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Patterns: Hamilton reuses the Israel’s Feasts and the Righteous Sufferer examples. These are good examples, but I would like to have seen more (I know they’re in there). Otherwise it makes me wonder why there even had to be a Patterns chapter. Even in the beginning of the chapter he says patterns are almost the same as typology.
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I was disappointed in how short Chapter 12 (The Church’s Setting in the Story) was (three pages long). The temple is a symbol of the cosmos, and the church being the temple of the Spirit means that the church is a preview of what the world is going to become. It was a wonderful section on the place of the church in the Big Setting.
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Thankfully, this was one of four chapters of Part 3 that makes up roughly 21 pages (in my version). Despite Part 3 itself not being very long, it still provided an adequate explanation of the purpose and place of the church in the setting of the Scriptures.
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Of course I wish this section was longer. I wish this whole book was longer! It’s hard to fault Hamilton though for how clear he is throughout the book. This is one of those books that makes me want to read more because of how easy it is to read yet how much you can learn in it. I guess I’ll just have to keep reading Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment and start reading Schreiner’s The King In His Beauty.

Recommended?

This was a great book that introduces the overall themes of the Bible to it’s reader. It’s important to go book by book when studying the Bible, finding out what each passage really says as well as the book as a whole. But also important is how the entire Bible flows together. If it’s important to know how we went from verse 1 to verse 10, it’s equally important to know how we went from Genesis to Revelation.
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The only way to get out of the world’s thinking and into the Bible’s is to actually read the Bible itself. A lot.
What kind of character defines our God? What kind of character should we have? What is so important about being a Christian over any other belief? Read the Bible. Hamilton doesn’t give detail to every connection in this book, but he gives you a framework on which to start viewing the Bible.
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Lagniappe

[Thanks to NetGalley and Crossway for allowing me to read and review this book before it came out. I was not obligated to give a positive review in return for reviewing my copy.]+
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Jesus: the Passover Lamb, No Bones About It

Jim Hamilton’s What Is Biblical Theology? has been eye-opening. It was an easy read with little technical lingo, yet the overall connections he shows have far-reaching meaning to them. He shows how prophecy is fulfilled in patterns, not just by “prophetic utterances.” Hamilton examines key symbols, patterns and themes that are found throughout Scripture. One of the texts I’ll focus on is John 19:36, These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’
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Many of us have probably heard that the Passover Lamb pointed to Jesus, and that He represents what the Passover Lamb does. Yet John 19:36 is a fulfillment of Exodus 12:46 where Moses tells the people, It [the lamb] shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.”
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That doesn’t sound like a “prediction” of an unbroken Messiah to me. I don’t imagine anyone was thinking, “Oh, that means the Messiah will have no broken bones!” How then is there a fulfillment of what isn’t prophecy?

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Let’s diverge for a second. In Psalm 18 David tells how the Lord rescued him from the hands of his enemies, including Saul. He professes his love for the Lord (18:1-3), then uses metaphors to describe his difficulties (18:4-5) and how he called upon Yahweh [the Lord] (18:6). The Lord answers his prayers and David tells us how using Mt. Sinai imagery (Ps. 18:7-15, cf. Ex. 19:16-20). He goes on to liken the Lord’s saving hand to the parting of the Red Sea (Ps 18:15; cf. Ex. 15:8), to his being dawn out of the waters as Moses was (Ps. 18:16; cf. Ex. 2:10), and to the Lord taking him into a broad place like the Land of Promise (Ps. 18:19). 
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David uses the events of the exodus and the conquest of the land as a form of interpretive schema to show how the Lord saved him from his distress. 

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What does this have to do with Jesus? David used the exodus events as a template to shows God’s salvation. The exodus was the paradigm of God’s saving hand to the Hebrews. In fact, Isaiah speaks of a second exodus, and Jesus would actually be the one to come and usher it in (Lk 9:31; NKJV says His decease; ESV says his departure). The exodus was the archetype, the template, the motif, the paradigm to be used, and David’s deliverance is another “installment in the typological pattern of the exodus” (p. 85).

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John doesn’t say that Exodus 12:46 predicts that the Messiah will not have any broken bones. He makes the claim that Jesus equals the typological fulfillment of the Passover lamb. “The death of Jesus fulfills the death of the lamb” (p. 85) to wipe away the sins of not just Israel, but the whole world.

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